The Crucible

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Transcript The Crucible

The Crucible
Key facts
The Crucible
Arthur Miller
Tragedy, allegory
America, early 1950s
• SETTING (PLACE) · Puritan Salem, a small town in colonial Massachusetts
PLOT For many hundreds of years throughout
Europe there was a belief in witchcraft. At
times this belief developed into hysterical fear,
leading to campaigns of persecution against
suspected witches. A small town in New
England succumbs to the hysteria of
witchcraft when two young girls (Abigail and
Betty) appear to be bewitched and allegations
are made against many innocent people. At
the same time, John Proctor struggles with his
own guilty conscience over his recent infidelity
with Abigail Williams.
Born on October 17, 1915 on 112th Street in Manhattan. Family was middle class and
Jewish. He went to grammar school in Harlem and high school in Brooklyn. He got a job as
a "loader" and shipping clerk and managed to pay his own way at the University of
Michigan, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1938.
Miller was also a public figure. In 1956, he appeared before the House Un-American
Activities Committee. He refused to name people who were thought to be members
of the Communist Party. Because he refused to give the names of the people at the
meeting, Miller was convicted of contempt of Congress in 1957. The Supreme Court
reversed this in 1958. This political witch-hunt, known as McCarthyism after Joseph
McCarthy, inspired Miller to write The Crucible. In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy of
West Virginia, began accusing people in the government of being or supporting
Communists. Fear broke out in the American public, much like the fear that erupted in
Salem once people were accused of witchcraft.
Miller wrote the play from the standpoint that people must not only be careful about
how they react to situations, but that they also cannot avoid involvement in issues,
for that would mean to deny one's own personal responsibility in the human race.
Miller married three times and died early in 2005. Some of Miller's famous plays include:
Death of a Salesman-1949, All My Sons, The Crucible-1953 and A View From the Bridge.
Who were the Puritans?
• Definition: Refers to the movement for reform, which
occurred within the Church of England between the time of
Elizabeth and Charles II.
• The Puritans wanted to rid the Church of any Catholic residue
and build upon the ideas of John Calvin. When Elizabeth died
and Charles II dissolved parliament, and any connection
between church and state, he demanded that anyone be
killed who did not support the new Anglican Church. Hence,
religious persecution began for the Puritans.
• Left for the new world in 1620 and established the
Massachusetts Bay Colony.
The Puritan community was a theocracy, a government which blends
church and state. The church’s officials were the government’s officials.
Thus, church and state were not separate.
Because of the theocratic nature of the society, moral laws and state
laws are one and the same: sin and the status of an individual’s soul are
matters of public concern. There is no room for deviation from social
norms, since any individual whose private life doesn’t conform to the
established moral laws represents a threat not only to the public good
but also to the rule of God and true religion.
In Salem, everything and everyone belongs to either God or the Devil;
dissent is not merely unlawful, it is associated with satanic activity. This
dichotomy functions as the underlying logic behind the witch trials.
Theological Beliefs Espoused by the Puritans
These beliefs originated in Calvinism.
Total depravity: Humankind is totally sinful through the fall of Adam
and utterly unable to work out their own redemption.
Unconditional election (Predestination): God is under no
obligation to save anyone. He saves or “elects” those who he wills
with no reference to good works.
Limited atonement: Christ died only for the elect.
Irresistible grace: God’s free grace is neither earned nor refused.
Anyone who has it, has it.
Perseverance of saints: Those whom God has chosen have
thenceforth full power to do the will of God and the ability to live
uprightly to the end.
The Puritan Dilemma
“Puritanism required:
•That a man devote his life to seeking salvation but told him
he was helpless to do anything evil.
• That he rest his whole hope in Christ but taught him that Christ
would utterly reject him unless before he was born, God had
foreordained his salvation.
•That man refrain from sin but told him he would sin anyhow.
•That he reform the world in the image of God’s holy kingdom but
taught him that the evil of the world was incurable and inevitable.
•That he work to the best of his ability at what ever task was set
before him and partake of the good things that God had filled the
world with but told him he must enjoy his work and his pleasures
only, as if it were, absentmindedly, with attention fixed on God.
Edmund S. Morgan, Historian
Signs of Puritan Decay
Visible decay of godliness
Manifestations of pride,especially among the rich
Violations of the Sabbath
Rise in contentious lawsuits
Sins of sex and alcohol on the rise
Decay in business morality – laborers underpaid, lying, etc
Lack of desire to reform
• For many hundreds of years throughout Europe there was a belief in
witchcraft. At times this belief developed into hysterical fear, leading to
campaigns of persecution against suspected witches. Some of them might
have had a knowledge of herbal medicine or other folk remedies.
Superstitious people would assume they had magical powers or were in
league with the devil.
• In a time of fear it would be easy to accuse someone you did not like and
very difficult for the accused to prove their innocence.
• Some scholars became experts in witchcraft and believed they knew how
to identify witches. It was thought that witches were agents of the Devil
and that they could change their shape.
• Many thousands of people accused of being witches were tortured and
executed throughout the Middle Ages and up to the seventeenth century.
• The authorities used the text from Exodus 22:18 to justify these killings:
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”
• This belief in witchcraft persisted among the English colonists
in America. In 1692 there was an outbreak of accusations of
witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts.
• The colonists there were Puritans who followed a particular
form of Protestant Christianity and would tolerate no other.
They felt surrounded by ungodly people and associated the
forest with savages and with evil.
• Two young girls had been taking part in magical ceremonies.
Ministers, doctors and magistrates were called in and soon
accusations were multiplying.
• Before the panic had burned itself out, twenty people had
been executed (one man was pressed to death by stones) and
about two hundred had been accused.
• Later some of the witnesses and judges who had been
involved publicly regretted what had taken place.
The Salem Witch Trials, 1692
• Innocent prank caused mass hysteria during time of unrest
• Hysteria implies Puritans deep belief in supernatural
– Puritans cannot handle anything threatening the quest for
perfection/religious purity (magic is out of place)
• Puritans brought pre-existing ideas about women & magic to
– Women = evil & sexual--targets for Devil
Am I a witch?
One of these people were accused (and
imprisoned) for being a witch during the
salem trials. Can you guess which one? Give
reasons for your answer.
Dorcas Good
She was Sarah Good's daughter.
5 years old
Fond of snakes
• Sarah Good
• She was a homeless woman and begged door
to door.
• She would mumble words under her breath if
people failed to give her alms.
George Burroughs
He was the second Salem Village minister
He had five children.
He was widowed three times.
• Giles Corey
• He had a criminal record mostly for stolen
foods and tobacco.
• 80 years old
You're Accused!
It's the spring of 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts. You've just been
accused by "an afflicted girl" of being a witch. The reason for the
accusation against you might have been any from a long list of
possibilities. Perhaps you're reclusive, talk to yourself, or exhibit some
other form of eccentric behavior. Perhaps you were involved in a
previous dispute with the family of the afflicted girl. Perhaps you
don't go to church, or go to the wrong church, or sided with the wrong
faction in recent congregational strife within the Salem Village
Church. Perhaps you speak French or are suspected with having aided
the Wabanakis in the recent Indian wars. Or perhaps you expressed
support for a recently accused witch or--worse yet--accused the
accusers of lying. Whatever the reason, you're in big trouble
now. What do you do? (Pick an option below).
Flee Salem
Accuse Someone Else
Get pregnant
Go on trial
Refuse to stand for trial
• Flee SalemGood idea, if you can swing it. Several accused witches did
escape from jail and survive the 1692 hysteria. They included Philip and
Mary English, John Alden, Hezekiah Usher, and Mrs. Nathaniel
Cary. However, all these accused persons had either money or influence
that made their escape possible. You don't have either. Try your next
• Accuse Someone ElseThe theory here is that if you're afflicted by
witchcraft, you can't be a witch yourself. This theory even convinced
some daughters to testify against their own mothers. It's not a bad idea
(if you have no conscience), but--sorry--it's too late now. You should
have thought of this idea a few days ago. Now, your accusation will look
like an obvious attempt to distract attention from your own guilt. The
accusation of witchcraft has been made against you and you're still going
to have to deal with it. Pick another option.
• Get Pregnant This isn't as silly an idea as it sounds. Pregnant women,
even if convicted of witchcraft, would not be executed so long as they
remained pregnant. The theory is that even if you deserve death, the
baby inside you does not--so the officials will put off your
execution. This was called "reprieve for the belly." Of course, you still
might be executed eventually, but the hope is that the hysteria won't last
another nine months. One slight problem, however. Who will you find in
jail to impregnate you? Sorry, this option is not available: Try another!
• ConfessThis route, pioneered by accused witches Tituba and Deliverance
Hobbs, turned out to be a life saver. Confessing witches weren't
executed. Instead, they were kept apart from other prisoners, to be
called upon in trials when their testimony might be helpful to the
prosecution. The Puritans believed that once a person made a full
confession, his or her fate should be left in God's hands, not
man's. Fifty-five persons in the Salem area confessed to witchcraft in
1692, adding substantial credibility to the initial charges of witchcraft
made by the afflicted girls. Do you really want to admit to being a
witch? Is this something you want on your resume? If not, try another
• Plead Innocent and Stand for Trial This is the approach that led to
nineteen innocent persons being carted off to Gallows Hill during the
summer of 1692. If you plead innocent, you'll have to face trial without
a lawyer and without the ability to call witnesses on your own behalf,
answer unanwerable questions ("If you're not a witch, how do explain
the fact that these afflicted girls fall into fits the minute you enter the
room?")--all before a court that unanimously believes in witchcraft and
believes that you're guilty. This approach looks hopeless. You better try
another option.
• Refuse to Stand for Trial Octogenarian Giles Corey gave this option a
try. Knowing the fate that awaited him if he stood for trial, Giles refused
to answer the ritual question, "Will you be tried by your God and your
country (that is, a jury)?" The penalty for refusing to answer was peine
forte et dure, an especially unpleasant way of going that involves piling
heavy stones on your body until you either agree to stand trial or are
crushed to death. I don't think you want to go through with this. Better
try another option.
The Crucible is a play by
Arthur Miller which
explores the Salem Witch
A Crucible is a severe test.
It does not maintain authentic situations from the historical events. However, it does
demonstrate how hysteria and blind faith can corrupt individuals, even those with good
The play is social commentary made by Miller in response
to the McCarthy
Un-American, witch hunt trials of the 1950’s.
"The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency
is not because the enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but
rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have had
all the benefits that the wealthiest nation on earth has had to
offer - the finest homes, the finest college educations, and the
finest jobs in Government we can give."
The Film
The Crucible
Film (1996)
Dir. Nicholas Hytner
• Just as Arthur Miller ‘changed’ history for his own artistic ends, so too did
the director with his film version of the play. It may differ slightly from the
original text, which is what we will be using for our exam answers.
• The film WILL help with your understanding of the plot etc. but NEVER
base an essay/exam answer on the film. You have been warned.
AS YOU WATCH take notes on:
Important characters
Important events
Relevant aspects of setting
Possible themes
• Discuss with a partner and take notes on how suitable you think the title
‘The Crucible’ is for this play. Dictionary definitions are included below
to help you.
• A vessel for melting a substance at a very high temperature.
• A severe test or trial
• A situation in which interacting influences produce something new.
do homework sheet ONE on ‘The Prologue’
Setting in the Crucible
‘The Crucible’ is set in Puritan New England in 1692. The action takes place
between spring and autumn in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the town of Salem
and the surrounding countryside. Salem was a theocracy in which the Christian
moral law, as interpreted by the Puritan settlers of the town, was supreme.
Puritanism began in England in the 1500's when reformers attempted to purify the
Protestant Church of England with the pure word of the Bible. Several thousand
Puritans came to America, settling in Virginia and the Massachusetts Bay Colony,
to establish and practice their religion. The Puritans were sombre, disciplined
people who did not allow any frivolity to come between them and their work.
Miller researched the period in great detail to make his portrait of Salem life as
authentic as possible.
Each of the settings in the play reflects Salem life and can give us insights into the
characters and their motivations. Miller gave each of his acts a single setting and
because of this, each of the settings can offer a different view of life in Salem. Act
One takes place in the bedroom of Betty Parris and the initial stage directions help
us to understand not only what life was like in Salem but also how the events in
the play will unfold as they do.
Read the stage directions and complete the table below to show how they
reinforce what we already know about life in Salem.
Salem was a new town
They were god fearing
No self expression was
They lived simply
Now read up to the entrance of John Proctor
The Crucible Scene One
Understanding Questions
• What happened in the woods the night before Act One begins?
• How did the events come to light?
• b) Why do Betty and Ruth behave as they do?
• Why is the town so stirred up by these events?
• Are the girls actually guilty of witchcraft?
• What is Reverend Parris’ first reaction to the crisis?
• What reason does Ann Putnam have to be resentful?
b) How was she involved in events in the forest?
• What reason does Thomas Putnam have to be resentful?
• Why do the girls argue about whether or not to tell the truth?
• How does Abigail eventually get her way?
• Comment on Abigail, Betty Ruth, Mercy, Tituba and Mary’s mental states
in this scene.
The Crucible Scene One
Analysis Questions
• Find three pieces of evidence to show how Tituba is shown to be an
outsider from the very start of the play.
• Already, we see that Salem is a town full of conflicts. Identify 3 examples
of individuals/groups in conflict in scene one and provide quotations.
• The audience are introduced to Abigail Williams in scene one. She does
not behave like a typical girl of her age and society. Name three ways in
which this is shown to be true.
• b) Are there any reasons to feel sympathy for Abigail?
• By the end of the scene, the main players could choose to put an end to
proceedings. It is this choice that allows the drama to escalate. Identify
the course of action available to each and comment on why you think they
don’t take it. (Abigail, Putnam, Parris and The Girls)
• Miller shows how quickly lies and gossip can corrupt people. Provide
three quotations to show that this is happening already in Salem.
Copy and complete the following table to show the various different attitudes towards
witchcraft displayed in Scene 1. Some can appear contradictory; this is the wonder of
human nature as Miller presents it. Be sure to include all you can.
“there be no unnatural
He is scared for his
reputation and doesn’t
want gossip spreading. As
a spiritual man this is quite
odd. With Puritan
attitudes to witchcraft etc
we would expect him to be
concerned for Betty’s soul
and wellbeing before
himself. Only concern is for
his position and the
reaction of his ‘enemies.
Now read up to the entrance of Rev Hale.
John Proctor
John Proctor is the main character of the play and as such it is
very important that we pay close attention to how Miller
introduces his hero
1) Miller’s brief prose insert about John paints a vivid picture. What
information are we given? Use bullet
. points.
2) John Proctor is described by Miller on p27 as a sinner who ‘has come to
regard himself as a kind of fraud’.
b) What evidence is there of how he has sinned in the next few pages?
c) Why does he consider himself guilty of ‘fraud’?
3) How does he feel about his sin? Quote and explain.
4) From the information we are given; compile a series of events that outlines
the affair from beginning to end (you may have to look back to scene one
fro some information).
b) What does Proctor’s treatment of Abigail in this scene tell us about his
5) What is his initial reaction to the reports of ‘witchcraft?’
6) How does Proctor explain his absence from Church to Parris?
Quote and explain.
7) What is revealed about the relationship between Proctor and
8) What does this tell us about Proctor’s character?
9) What is revealed about the relationship between Proctor and
10) What does this tell us about Proctor’s character?
• Now write a paragraph about how the
character is presented to the audience in
scene two, using quotations from the play.
• Why was Abigail really fired from being a servant to the
• Why does Abigail dislike Elizabeth Proctor so much?
• What was her real reason for being in the forest?
• How does Miller show her power over the other girls?
COMPLETE a mind-map where you note down all the facts
that we have learned, opinions we have and judgements we
have made so far.
“have no fear – we shall find (the devil) out if he has come among us and I
mean to crush him utterly)
Read scene three and write the report that Hale send to
Danforth after the events of Act One. You should mention:
Why he first came to Salem
His impressions of the people
His reaction to events in the Parris household
His assessment of the witchcraft in the village/children
What he believes to be the best course of action
Scene Three Questions
1. When Reverend Hale first arrives, he enters Parris' home carrying
something. What is he carrying and why would the author choose this
object for this character?
2. Giles tells Hale that John Proctor doesn't believe in witches. What is John
Proctor's response?
3. Rebecca Nurse makes a comment to Mrs. Putnam before she leaves
Parris' home to go home. What is it and what is she implying?
4. Giles asks Hale about his wife's behaviour. What is he concerned about?
5. There is a disagreement about the kettle in the forest. Who disagrees and
what about?
6. In Act 1, when Abigail feels cornered by Hale, she shifts the blame. Who
does she blame and for what?
7. Does Tituba come up with the idea of other townspeople talking to the
devil? Why do you think she confesses?
8. What was Tituba’s initial motivation for accusing others? Second? Third?
9. What was the girls’ initial motivation for accusing others? Second?
Hysteria in ‘The Crucible’
Act One begins quietly with a young girl lying unresponsive
on a bed. By the end of the Act, eleven people have been
accused of witchcraft.
Hysteria, superstition and gossip are other factors that contribute to the
escalation of the situation in Salem. Act One shows JUST how quickly
rumours can spread in a small, fearful town such as Salem and
demonstrates the power of gossip and fear
Reading from scene one, make a note of ALL the instances of
gossip/superstition and rumour of witchcraft that would play a part in
allowing the situation to escalate as people get more afraid.
DETAILS pg 17/18 Susanna Walcott “you might look to unnatural
things for the cause of it”
WHO IS INVOLVED Parris/Susanna/Dr Griggs
For example
pg 17/18 Susanna Walcott “you might look to
unnatural things for the cause of it”
WHO IS INVOLVED Parris/Susanna/Dr Griggs
DETAILS pg 21 Mrs Putnam
DETAILS pg 28 John Proctor
DETAILS pg 30 Putnam
DETAILS pg 32 Rebecca Nurse
DETAILS pg 43 Giles Corey
See how fast gossip can spread and how much
damage it can cause...
Three college students chose a class project on
Gossip and how fast it spreads, which spirals
out of control.
A Tragedy
• A story about serious issues
• It ends unhappily
• It usually ends with the deaths of the main
• The main character’s death is usually a result
of his or her own downfall
A Tragic Hero
Aristotle’s classic definition of a tragic hero is someone of high
rank who embodies nobility yet has a fatal flaw which leads to
his inevitable downfall e.g. Macbeth, Romeo etc. Proctor
cannot be considered a tragic hero on the classical sense since
he has no rank, nor is he particularly noble. He is an ordinary
farmer and adulterer. However, he is tragic in as much as he
has a sense of what nobility or morality should be and is
painfully aware of his own shortcomings. He senses his own
weaknesses and failures keenly. He could also be seen to
achieve nobility by the end of the play when he refuses to
compromise his principles and chooses to face death rather
than lie. In the end he chooses his own integrity over his life
which is ultimately Proctor’s tragedy.
The Plot structure for a Tragic
Crisis/ Turning
Act I: Exposition
• Introduces the setting, main characters,
themes and the main conflict e.g. Salem’s
underlying tensions and secrets are exposed.
• Act 1 – Betty’s bedroom
Miller’s Tragic Pattern
Act I: Exposition (Betty’s bedroom)
Act II: Rising Action (Proctor House)
Act III: Crisis or Turning point (Courtroom)
Act IV: Falling Action (Cell)
Act IV: Climax and resolution (Cell)
The Crucible Act one Essay
• Work in groups to gather the information you
would need to answer the following question:
• “Act One begins quietly with a young girl lying
unresponsive on a bed. By the end of the Act,
eleven people have been accused of
witchcraft. Making close reference to the text,
show how circumstances in Salem allow the
situation to develop into hysteria.”
• There are 11 possible reasons to look for.
Mini CEL
• Now you will work individually to write a mini
CEL in response to the question.
• You will need a FULL introduction, THREE
paragraphs and a FULL conclusion.
Text, Author, Summary, Task,
‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller is concerned with early
settlers in the village of Salem, where religious
superstition and personal conflict is rampant. The
first act introduces the underlying conflicts and
tensions of the community which will eventually
allow the situation to develop to its tragic climax. In
this essay I will examine the contributing factors to
this tragedy and show how Miller portrays a
community on the verge of hysteria.
Sentences must refer to the question and states what topic
is being covered in the paragraph. REMEMBER LINKING!
A quotation must be written in your essay exactly as it is
written in the text
You must explain how the quotation supports your topic sentence.
This demonstrates...
You should choose a word or phrase form the quotation to evaluate
(discuss how effective it is) in helping to answer the question.
The word...suggests...
Text, Author, Sum up, Task
The first act of ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller
introduces the underlying conflicts of Salem society
and through the accusations at the end of the act,
reveals to the audience how easily a community
based on guilt and repression can be manipulated to
the point of hysteria. The community’s treatment of
children and outsiders, religious intolerance,
personal conflicts and ultimately the pride and vanity
of certain townspeople are all seen to be
contributing factors which will lead to Salem’s
John and Elizabeth
“What keeps you so late?”
“I mean to please you
“(as gently as he can)
“You ought to bring some
flowers into the house”
What it tells us
How it effects audience
• In this Act, Proctor’s sense of guilt begins to eat away at him. He knows
that he can bring down Abigail and end her reign of terror, but he fears for
his good name if his hidden sin of adultery is revealed. John Proctor is a
tormented individual. His best possession is his good name and the
respect and integrity associated with it. Once he acknowledges his affair
with Abigail, Proctor effectively brands himself an adulterer and loses his
good name. He dreads revealing his sin because guilt and regret already
overwhelm him. Proctor believes a public display of his wrongdoing only
intensifies the extent of his sin, thereby multiplying his guilt.
• At this point, John can do little about his involvement with the witch-hunt.
He is bound to become involved despite his constant efforts to hide from
the issue. Elizabeth has just been "mentioned" in court, and this directly
links John to the witch-hunt. No matter how much he wants to escape it
now, he cannot. His involvement is inevitable.
Despite his efforts to remain unconnected with Abigail and
the trials, John has no choice but to become involved, now
that his wife has been accused. He takes the warrant for
Elizabeth's arrest and rips it. This is a clear statement that says
he will speak openly about what he thinks about the whole
situation. He can no longer stay quiet and hope that the
childish nonsense, as he always perceived it, will run its
course. His wife being arrested forces John to make some
form of confession to the court to discredit Abigail’s name.
• What decision does John have to make in Act 2?
• Why would this make a difference to proceedings?
• Why is he reluctant to do this?
• What eventually forces him to make a decision?
• By the end of the scene, he still does not commit fully to his
decision. What does he do/say that lets us know this?
“scoffing but without conviction”
He does not want to acknowledge the extent of the problem as
he realises he has the power to stop it BUT does not want to
become involved.
QUOTATION pg 66/56
“you will tell the court what you know”
Still trying to get out of confessing. If Mary confesses to the lies
then he wont have to. Has resolved to confront court but still
wont commit fully.
Act II: Rising Action
• A series of complications which are a result of
the main characters taking action. Arrests are
made as accusations fly.
Write about a character who you
admire despite a flaw.
• In Act 2 the audience see John’s inner struggle
as he resists getting involved by telling the
court the truth and exposing his own guilt
over his affair with Abigail. THIS is his flaw.
• Despite Proctor’s flaw
( his affair and his desire to conceal it )
• the audience can sympathise with him AND
still see him as an admirable character.
1) Shame at affair
2) Level headed and sensible (see Miller’s prose
3) Loves his wife and wants to make amends
4) Stands up to court
Skeleton CEL
Write a skeleton essay (Introduction, 4 points
and quotations and a conclusion) showing
how John is an admirable character DESPITE
Act three
• 1) Scene One
• From opening stage directions to entrance of
Mary and John Proctor
• 2) Scene Two
• From entrance of Mary and John to when
Danforth summons the other girls
• 3) Scene Three
• From the entrance of the girls to the end of
the Act.
• Much of Act III has to do with determining who will define
innocence and guilt and the struggle for power. Proctor makes
one desperate bid for this authority by finally overcoming his
desire to protect his good name, exposing his own secret sin.
He hopes to replace his wife’s alleged guilt with his own guilt
and bring down Abigail in the process. Unfortunately, he
mistakes the proceedings for an actual search for the guilty,
when, in fact, the proceedings are better described as a
power struggle. He exposes his private life to scrutiny, hoping
to gain some authority, but he does not realize that too many
influential people have invested energy into the proceedings
for him to be able to stop them now. Too many reputations
are at stake, and Proctor’s revelation comes too late to stop
the avalanche. As Act Three progresses, Hale will become
further shaken by the injustice of the hearings until he finally
denounces them. At this early point in his transformation,
however, it is already clear that he has lost his influence with
the court. His revelation has come too late.
In this Act, the action moves from the private spheres of The
Parris and Proctor residences to the meeting house or church,
which is now being used as the ‘highest court in the land’
where everyone’s business is open to scrutiny and can be
used against them, underlining the fact that the church and
the state are the same thing in Puritan society. The setting is
becoming more austere and sinister within this ‘forbidding’
room with its plain and heavy furniture. While one door leads
outside, two doors lead inside to the main room of the
meeting house, suggesting metaphorically perhaps that the
route out of the courtroom is more difficult than the way in.
The effect of the setting is obviously to intimidate those
individuals who come to ‘challenge’ the authority of the
The stage is empty at the start of the act and the audience are
aware of voices offstage. The atmosphere of the trial is
disturbed with the interruptions of Giles and the uproar of the
townsfolk, giving the impression that the action is spilling out
onto the stage. The stage directions to Act Three indicate that
sunlight streams into the room from two high windows in the
back wall. Miller’s use of lighting adds another dimension to
the symbolism of the play. In an atmosphere of darkness,
ignorance, and evil, a few shafts of pure light are visible
coming from above, symbolizing goodness and truth.
Unfortunately, while the light burns brightly, it is not enough
to overcome the overwhelming darkness of the witch-hunts.
The setting is ironic and shows how far the concept of good
and justice have been twisted.
Act III in The Crucible is a turning point as several important
points of the plot lead to the resolution in Act IV.
Proctor confesses to adultery in Act III in an effort to shake Abigail's hold
over the court, instead of helping him, it seals his fate.
In order to prove the charge of adultery, Elizabeth Proctor is brought in to
verify the claim, she lies to protect her husband's reputation.
Mary Warren turns on Proctor under pressure from Abigail's charade
about seeing a bird flying in the court, that she claims is Mary's spirit.
Mary accuses Proctor of trying to force her to follow the devil.
Proctor is arrested and thrown in jail along with Giles Corey, who refuses
to name the individual who told him about Thomas Putnam instructing his
daughter Ruth to accuse George Jacobs of witchcraft.
Reverend Hale quits the court and leaves Salem at the end of Act III. This
is a very significant turning point. Hale becomes convinced that the court
is being used for vengeance by members of the town and he questions the
court's authority.
The actions of the characters in Act III, lead up to the resolution that
occurs in Act IV.
• Read act 3, Scene 3 and find quotations to
support each of the points above. You must
also provide a brief comment on each
quotation to show WHY this can be considered
important to the scene as a turning point e.e
the effect it will have on the outcome of the
play overall.
Act III: The Crisis or Turning Point
• A choice made by the main characters determines
the direction of the action
• A happy ending = Comedy
• Downward action= Tragedy
• Most dramatic and intense moment
• All the complications lead to this moment
• John admits adultery BUT is let down by Elizabeth
and Mary.
Turning Point
• Chooses a play in which a scene provides a definite
turning point in the action. Briefly describe why the
scene is a turning point and go on to show how it
enhances your appreciation of the play as a whole.
• Choose from a play an important scene, which you
found particularly entertaining or particularly
shocking. Explain briefly why the scene is so
important to the play as a whole and discuss in detail
how this makes the scene so entertaining or
• From a play you have studied choose a scene that
you consider to be crucial to the development of the
drama and explain how its importance is made clear
to the audience.
• Opening stage directions – before scene 1 good is prevalent
BUT evil/power is trying to overcome and by the end of the
scene evil and corruption will have overshadowed good.
• Change from private to public spaces - everyone’s private
business has come under public scrutiny where everyone is a
suspect and must adhere to society’s expectations and by the
end of the scene two more innocent men will have been put
in jail because they refuse to conform.
• Change in mood throughout scene - initial quiet of scene
reflects that of Proctor household but the uproar that follows
and the subsequent hysteria shows that the calm mood that
permeated the first half of act 2 is now gone and the entire
town has succumbed to the hysteria. By the end of the scene
the hysteria will have escalated to its peak.
• Build up of tension in scene. Miller alternates quiet moments and then
dramatic moments of high tension and hysteria. E.g. When Elizabeth
enters the court it is quiet. The tension is even more evident by the
silence. Miller heightens the tension by Elizabeth’s hesitant replies. Too
many examples to list her.
• Theme of power takes centre stage. Rather than being a search for the
guilty, the court in now in the grip of a power struggle. Thomas Putnam
moves from an original motivation of grudges against others to unabashed
greed. Abigail Williams, in contrast, has moved from self-preservation to a
more general lust for power.
• Proctor confesses to adultery in Act III in an effort to shake Abigail's hold
over the court, instead of helping him, it seals his fate meaning that there
is no more chances to discredit Abigail meaning that the trials will
continue. Before this scene there is a chance that he can tell the truth and
prove Abigail wrong, by the end of the scene that chance is gone.
• In order to prove the charge of adultery, Elizabeth Proctor is brought in to
verify the claim, she lies to protect her husband's reputation meaning that
is testimony against Abigail is meaningless as no-one will believe him.
Before the scene John and Elizabeth’s honesty was admired in the village
but by the end of the scene his good name is lost and with it goes any
chance of ending the trials.
• Mary Warren turns on Proctor under pressure from Abigail's charade
about seeing a bird flying in the court, that she claims is Mary's
spirit. Before this scene Mary was Proctor’s last hope to discredit Abigail
as she alone knew the truth of what happened in the forest and Abigail’s
true nature and with her betrayal all hope is lost for any reprieve from the
madness at hand.
• Mary accuses Proctor of trying to force her to follow the devil further
tarnishing his name and sealing his fate entirely. Before this scene, he
enjoyed a good reputation within the village. His attack on Abigail and
declaration that ‘God is dead’ fully blackens his name in the court and not
only foils any attempt to stop the trial BUT also means that his life is now
in danger unless he makes a heartbreaking decision.
Proctor is arrested and thrown in jail along with Giles Corey, who refuses
to name the individual who told him about Thomas Putnam instructing his
daughter Ruth to accuse George Jacobs of witchcraft. These men were
symbols of good in the play, men who stood up for themselves and what
they believed. Before this scene, Proctor is unwilling to get involved in the
trials and prefers to stand outside society but by the end of the scene the
corrupt power of ‘society’ has well and truly won and he as an individual
has no choice but to become involved for the greater good.
• Reverend Hale quits the court and leaves Salem at
the end of Act III. This is a very significant turning
point. Hale becomes convinced that the court is
being used as an instrument of vengeance by
members of the town and that the truth has been
subverted in favour of maintaining the court's
authority. Before this scene he was the main
supporter of the trials and believed that it was God’s
work and by the end of the scene he has realised
that the court is on the side of evil rather than good .
This shows how far the concept of good and justice
have been twisted as the most Godly man in the play
turns his back on proceedings.
Act IV
(Scenes 1 and 2)From start of Act to entrance of Proctor
(Scenes 3 and 4)From Entrance of Proctor to Epilogue
• Act Four takes place in the Salem jail, dimly lit by moonlight seeping
through the bars. The light of goodness is still present, though it has been
greatly dimmed. No longer the bright sunlight of Act Three, we now see
only the reflected light of the moon. While evil has managed to overpower
good, as is vividly portrayed in the apparent madness of Tituba and Sarah
Good, it cannot be obliterated.
• Time has passed since Act Three, and it is now fall. The symbolism of the
season is apparent. Fall is the time of fruition, when crops reach their
fullness and are harvested. It also heralds a time of death and decay. The
hysteria of the witch trials has now reached its peak and is approaching its
inevitable end.
• The setting of Act 4 is just about as bleak and confined as it could be. As
well as the darkness of the setting, we are struck by the emptiness of the
room. Here, life is stripped down to the bare minimum. The setting in
Act 4 is somewhat ironic when compared to Act 3 as it is this foul and
dingy prison cell where honour and integrity is found and ultimately where
Study Questions read to “in the corridor outside...”
1 What are Tituba and Sarah Good discussing as the act
2. How does Tituba describe the devil in Barbados?
3. What has happened that has made Parris so anxious?
4. What happened in Andover?
5. Why is Parris afraid to hang more people the next morning?
6. Why is Parris more frightened to hang Proctor and Nurse
than anyone else?
7. Why does Parris request a postponement of the hangings?
8. What does Hale request instead of postponement?
9. Why does Danforth refuse Hale’s request?
10. What has Hale been advising those condemned to do?
11. What does Hale plead with Elizabeth to do?
12. Why does Hale believe a lie would not be a sin in this
Escaping to Barbados with the Devil
A fun character, ‘pleasureman’.
Dagger/rebellion/Abigail’s disappearance
A similar court investigating witchcraft was overthrown
It might begin a similar rebellion
Their standing/reputation in the village
To give them time to confess
Would be a sign of weakness
Lie and confess to save their lives
Convince John to confess
Life is a sacred gift and God may see it as less of a sin to lie than to throw
away a life
• He feels that if John dies he would be responsible.
Hale has now come full circle in his development. While he
appeared in Salem bearing the weighty authority of his books
on the devil and witchcraft, he is now there to attempt to
reverse the consequences of that early behaviour. Far from
examining the souls of these men and women and judging
their content, he is now encouraging them to lie and save
their lives. Hale is finally acting as an individual, and he
attempts to persuade others to do the same. The trials had
been a farce, and Hale saw no sin in telling a lie to an unjust
authority to save one’s life. This action illustrates how
disillusioned he is with the justice system and the church.
Those who refuse to confess are actually truer to their faith
than he.
• “Let you not mistake your duty as I mistook my own”
• Write Hale’s journal entry of that day. You
should include:
• His intentions when arriving at the jail that
• His feelings about the other characters
(especially the court)
• His hope for John and Elizabeth’s discussion
• His overall feelings about his time in Salem.
Collapse of Trials
In Act 4 scenes 1 and 2 we see the consequences of the courtroom scene in
Act 3. The trials are on the verge of collapse and the court’s hold over the
town is tenuous by this point.
Hale trying to convince people to lie and SIN to save their lives
Abigail’s disappearance
The dagger
Parris’ state of mind
Rebecca’s refusal to confess
Johns refusal to confess
Reputation of those now accused
Recent rebellion in Andover
Talk of rebellion in Salem
State of town – cows etc
3 months have passed – hysteria has died
Poor treatment of accused at hands of court
Act IV: Falling Action – scene 3
• Presents consequences of character’s decision
• The character’s downfall begins
• Events lead to tragic climax e.g Proctor is arrested
and struggles with his confession.
Turning Point
John and Elizabeth
read to ‘I want my life...’
• The final scene between Proctor and his wife Elizabeth is full of emotion
and the tension never falters. Throughout the scene we see a man in
torment and inevitably full of indecision – knowing that his decision is
literally a matter of life or death.
• The dramatist evokes our sympathy in the opening lines. There is raw
emotion when they first meet after so many months of imprisonment.
One can sense Elizabeth’s pity when she sees her tortured husband.
• Scene 3 reveals a dramatic change in the relationship between Proctor
and Elizabeth. They have learned to forgive one another and to
communicate their feelings. Elizabeth realizes that she cannot blame
Proctor entirely for the affair. Her insecurity prevented her from trusting
Proctor and her lack of emotion created distance between them. When
Elizabeth tells Proctor of her feelings, he sees that Elizabeth no longer
condemns him. She refuses to influence her husband's decision despite
her own wishes – he has earned her respect and she loves him all the
more for his ability to make the right decision on his own. He can believe
her when she tells him she has forgiven him; as a result, they manage to
put the affair in the past and move on to consider the future.
• Now complete ‘scene three table’
(read from ‘I want my life’ to ‘Proctor has just finished signing’.)
• Proctor's decision to confess seems surprising at first.
Considering his options, however, the choice seems
less surprising. He can refuse to plead guilty and be
hanged for witchcraft, or he can confess the crime
and live. Either way the court declares him guilty, but
the confession shows repentance for the crime and
saves him from execution. Both Proctor and Elizabeth
realize that lying about the confession is a small price
to pay for his life. Scene 4 exemplifies a struggle.
Proctor knows that signing the confession is lying,
and this sacrifice of honor is the hardest for him to
bear. His desire to remain honest and his desire to
preserve his family tear him in two.
Act IV: Climax (CATASTROPHE) and
Resolution -scene 4
• Also known as the CATASTROPHE
• Occurs at the end of the play
• Usually ends with the death of the main characters
• Resolution- the loose ends of the play are tied up.
, Climax/Resolution
Redemption read to end of act
John is willing to sacrifice his honour and live with the knowledge that
others will view him differently if he confesses. However, Proctor cannot
bear the shame of having his confession nailed to the church door.
Because confessing will save his life, he can live with that idea, but he
believes nailing his confession to the church door constitutes a betrayal of
everyone who refuses to confess. John realises that if his confession is
made public it will be used to force others to confess. His lie WOULD save
his life but in the process he would be condemning innocent people. THIS
is what he fears the most. He cannot turn his back on his community any
longer and merely act in his own interests, he has to acknowledge the
consequences of his actions and either live with the knowledge that he
‘sold his friends’ and lie to save himself at the expense of others OR lose
his life but die as an honest man. He commits to society and decides to die
an honest man, and also a man that got involved and stood for what was
Complete act 4 table